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 May 10, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Retributive actions

I read with interest and disgust the article, “Bishops take action against nuns over health care reform” (Voice, April 26). At least two bishops, Lawrence Brandt of Greensburg, Pa., and Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., have taken retributive actions against some women’s religious communities and /or the Catholic Health Association for their support of the recently passed health care reform legislation.

Bishop Brandt has directed his diocesan newspaper not to promote the “vocation awareness program of any religious community” that was signatory to a letter urging the passing of the health care reform bill. How interesting that Bishop Brandt chose to use religious vocations as a tool for punishment. Certainly, this will stop encouragement of vocations and the Church will be better off without more religious women in its ranks.

Bishop Tobin asked the Catholic Health Association to remove the diocesan-sponsored St. Joseph Health Services of Rhode Island from its membership rolls saying that CHA had “misled the public and caused serious scandal” by supporting health reform legislation that the bishops opposed.

What a great idea to remove health services to the public in order to promote compliance with the will of the hierarchy.

It is worth noting that there have been quite a number of bishops nationwide who have “misled the public and caused serious scandal” in the news lately. I suspect some of these actions were more serious in nature than that of supporting healthcare for the poor and uninsured in our nation.

Since when do we as members of a Church have to comply with the political positions of said Church? Do we not live in a country that has upheld the separation of church and state as guaranteed by our Constitution? Do we not possess free will which allows making decisions based upon our conscience?

Obviously, the bishops involved have not read the provisions of the bill. Had they done so, they would have realized that federal funds cannot be used for abortions in existing legislation and in the recently passed health reform bill and the executive order signed by President Obama.

Gloria Kunz

Silent no more

I would like to voice my complete agreement with Father David O’Rourke’s excellent commentary (Voice, April 26) on the silence of sexual abuse.

Without instigating a witch hunt, it is time for Church authorities to treat all such allegations as potential criminal acts. If there is forgiveness, there must also be justice. It is in the interest of our Church to protect and shepherd our most vulnerable children of God.

It is true as Christ said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” In this case we are all subject to the rule of just law. Any one of us can and should be prosecuted for crimes committed against society. To remain silent where there is reasonable discoverable evidence of such criminal behavior is to acquiesce to crime.

The Church has contributed so much to the support and welfare of mankind for centuries. We must not permit this treasure of respect to be compromised.

Tony Mazeika
Mission Viejo

Celebrate good priests

Is the glass half empty or half full? This is a familiar phrase. It came to my mind in reflecting about the weeks and weeks of press about pedophile priests.

I say, in relation to our priests, that the glass is full almost to the brim, if not overflowing, with good priests. Let’s celebrate them. Recognize them. Thank them. Pray with them. Write a note to one who comes to mind to you today. I am about to do just that.

Therese Costello Hauer

Reform needed now

Bishop Cordileone states in his commentary (Voice, April 12) that the Church is always stranding in need of reform: Ecclesia simper reformanda. Let the reform start now.

I offer the following recommendations:

The appointment of Cardinal Bernard Law as archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome continues to be a source of scandal to Catholics in particular as well as other faiths. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) should ask for the rescinding of this appointment.

Following the courageous lead of Archbishop Diarmurd Martin of Dublin, Ireland, the USCCB should ask any active American bishop who knowingly protected pedophile clerics to resign the position.

Stop blaming homosexuality as the primary cause of clerical sexual abuse in the Church. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice states that individuals who molest children may be heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual with regard to victim selection.

Stop demonizing those in the media who offer legitimate criticism of the Church pertaining to the sexual abuse crisis. If it had not been for the media, there probably would never have been the Dallas Charter. As James Martin, S.J. recently wrote, “object and correct, but don’t blame.”

The USCCB should inform the Vatican that the People of God wish to initiate an open, honest dialog on celibacy. There is no legitimate reason for the current ban on such dialog. Does not the current Church position contradict the Gospel. See 1Corinthians 7:1-2 and 1Timothy 3:2.

Stop ignoring the work of Vatican II. Martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero stated, “. . . we (will) lay foundations that will need further development.” Was not Vatican II one of those foundations? To many, the institutional Church is stealthily retreating from much that had been started by this Council. Wasn’t the Spirit at work at the Council? The hierarchy appears to be acting otherwise.

Indeed, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. Thirty-eight years ago, the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen stated: “Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops like bishops, and your religious act like religious.”

Peter Davey

Media attention warranted

With all due respect to Bishop Cordileone and his position as pastoral leader of the Diocese of Oakland, a response is needed to his April 12 commentary. A healthy skepticism of the media may be warranted, but given the revelations of past and unfortunately current abuses of children, a healthy skepticism of official statements by the leadership of the Church about this issue is also warranted.

As Father Michael Ryan, pastor of Seattle’s St. James Cathedral, said in a recent homily, “Some of the media attacks have been unfair and unbalanced, and yes, the moral quicksand of our secular society deserves some of the blame, but no amount of spreading or sharing the blame can take away the blame that rests squarely with the Church.”

Father Ryan also said “at times, the Church has allowed selfish concerns, institutional issues to eclipse the most basic rights of the flock, especially some of the weakest and most vulnerable members of the flock.”

On the same page as Bishop Cordileone’s commentary, there is an extensive article on the recent audit of U.S. dioceses on the issue of sexual abuse. The article states that, as in previous years, a few dioceses and eparchies decline to be audited. In the same article, Bishop Robert F. Vasa of the Diocese of Baker, Oregon, is quoted as saying that he “feels it’s inappropriate to provide any type of sex education to any prepubescent child.”

Consider the recent comments of the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, “Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.”

Refusal to participate in sexual abuse audits by some U.S. dioceses and comments like those of Cardinal Bertone only serve to fuel the media’s appetite. The Church brought this heightened attention upon itself by the actions of some bishops and cardinals. Without the media, the Church may never have “found” the courage to address the issue at all.

Brian McCoy

Transparency required

A defensive bunker mentality about clergy sex abuse will not eliminate the persistent accusations by victims and media or feelings of anger, sadness and disappointment by the faithful. What is most needed are transparency and humility.

The great irony is that the two fears most behind the lack of transparency (cover-up) in handling abuse cases, viz. loss of reputation and money, have resulted in far greater scandal and financial payments than would ever have occurred otherwise.

People today no longer tolerate being treated like mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed manure), whether by government, financial institutions, corporations spewing toxic chemicals or making unsafe cars, or even those institutions we have traditionally placed on the highest pedestals.

Victims, attorneys and the media, admittedly for different motivations, will not cease digging until they feel they are told the truth. Nor will the full confidence of the faithful be restored. Bishop Cordileone’s article in the April 26 issue of The Voice regarding a diocesan case is one commendable example of transparency.

Perhaps the most difficult virtue is humility. At its core, humility is truth.

What the entire Christian world is waiting for is for every bishop who has not done so, especially the Bishop of Rome, to do two things.

First, apologize personally, if appropriate, and on behalf of the Church for both the abusive acts of some clergy and for any mishandling and/or cover-up of such cases.

Second, implement a whole series of common sense actions to atone for the past, make every effort to prevent and assure appropriate handling of future problems, and treat future victims with dignity and compassion.

A model, not perfect but impressive, has been the actions by the U.S. bishops over the past several years in admitting and apologizing for horrendous behavior and decisions and then focusing on preventing reoccurrence of such problems, referring cases to law enforcement, paying restitution (even if coerced by the legal system), and reaching out compassionately to victims.

Bob Norris

The worst scandal?

To the author of the letter “The worst scandal” (Forum, April 12), I have the following comments. First, no one has done more to resolve, apologize, hold people accountable and work to facilitate an appropriate conclusion of this scandal than Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XV.

Jesus Christ made his view clear related to the little ones. I am positive our Lord and Savior will hold those involved accountable.

I am concerned about calls for the resignation of Pope Benedict. He and John Paul II before him deserve our support and prayers for the strength, grace and guidance to handle this crisis.

If each of us prayed with the same intensity that we criticize, our lives, the Church, the world and our very existence could improve significantly. I suggest tuning in to Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and discovering the truth about what this pope is doing related to this issue, rather than listening to the main stream media. It is enlightening, educational, informative and truthful.

Louis Renner

Derisive term

Michael Arata (Forum, April 26) refers to “Obamacare” on multiple occasions. Whenever I see or hear that term, it seems the user’s primary purpose is to express animosity toward our president and his presidency, and not to engage in intelligent, even-handed, discourse.

The fact is that the president neither drafted the recently passed health care legislation, nor is the resultant bill named after him — other than by those looking to criticize. If there is disagreement, concerns, etc., why not express those in a civilized manner rather than by using clichés and tones designed more to insult rather than inform?

For me, Mr. Arata’s thinly veiled, derisive usage of the term “Obamacare” calls his credibility into question and renders the remainder of his points, no matter how well intentioned, moot.

Eric Grant

Share authority with laity

While Bishop Cordileone (Voice, April 26) lays out a time-line on Vatican correspondence with Bishop Cummins regarding the Stephen Kiesle case, nowhere do I read in this exchange any concern or compassion from the Vatican for the victims of the crimes committed by this priest.

It is as though the Roman hierarchy’s understanding of John’s Gospel is “Feed the ordained and forget the sheep.” The time has come for the laity to share in moral authority and decision making, working together with the ordained to bring a balance to moral reasoning and justice in this Church.

Margaret Govednik

Respect and civil discourse

I applaud the statement of standards in the box at the top of the Forum page. It says “for readers to engage in an open exchange of opinions and concerns,” which is fine so far. It continues: “in a climate of respect and civil discourse.”

When does that begin? Each issue, I look for signs of “respect and civil discourse” and only find the worst partisan and church political ranting and raving. It seems that there are no standards, neither Christian nor rational nor journalistic.

Basic rules of argument, about no personal attacks, no name-calling, listen to other opinions, don’t characterize every difference of opinion as good versus evil (piano vs. organ, EWTN vs. National Catholic Reporter, John XXIII vs. John Paul II).

It’s an exciting and living Church, not a shut-up-and-do-as-you’re-told church. So let’s have some interesting discussions, and even look for the beauty in our diversity.

Robin Burris

Letters to the editor provide a forum for readers to engage in an open exchange of opinions and concerns in a climate of respect and civil discourse. The opinions expressed are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the Catholic Voice or the Diocese of Oakland. While a full spectrum of opinions will sometimes include those which dissent from Church teaching or contradict the natural moral law, it is hoped that this forum will help our readers to understand better others’ thinking on critical issues facing the Church at this time.

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